Parenting Your Aging Parents

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By Robert Moskowitz

Dear Robert:

My mother is planning to be remarried next month. She is an 81 year old woman who has lived alone quite well for several years since my father’s death from cancer. Also, Mom has a considerable amount of money from savings, the sale of the house, and my father’s life insurance.

Her fiance is 85, and frankly has a few health problems. This man has been taking care of himself for many years since his wife died. I’m afraid he’s rushing my mother into marriage to get her money, or worse. I must admit she seems happy with him, and she says she loves him. But she has many friends and activities near where she lives, and doesn’t need to get married. How can I tell my mother I don’t want her to marry this man without making her angry?

Signed, Anxious About The Future

Dear Anxious:

Sorry, but I don’t think that’s possible. Unless your mother’s intended husband has serious health problems that threaten to turn your mother into a live-in nurse immediately, or unless you have evidence that he has designs on your mother’s money, I suggest you grin and bear it. Although your mother has been living alone for years, she may crave the companionship that a marriage brings. Wouldn’t you? Many people feel more comfortable in a committed relationship.

By all means, encourage your mother to request a prenuptial agreement that keeps her assets from passing to her husband and his family. But it might also be constructive for you to consider why you feel uncomfortable with a new relationship that is clearly making your mother happy. If mother and this man remain happy together for several years, why not try as hard as you can to learn to appreciate him?

Dear Robert:

My father died early this year, and the family hasn’t been the same ever since. It’s not just that we miss him, but we can’t seem to get along any more. My mother (78) has become very short\_tempered and cries easily. My brother seems to think that his opinion is the law of the land. My younger sister hasn’t been able to keep a job, and has put on 20 pounds. I don’t feel all that depressed, but my husband tells me I’ve become moody and full of complaints.\par

The worst part is that we don’t seem able to spend time together any more. When Dad was alive, we enjoyed family dinners and picnics. Now sparks fly whenever we speak. Dad would have known what to do, but he’s no longer here to ask for advice. I want my children to know and love their aunts, uncles, and grandmother, but I’m afraid that our family is disintegrating. More than anything, I want the love and warmth back. What can I do?\par

Signed,

Lost Without Dad

Dear Lost:

The situation you describe needn’t be permanent. In fact, it’s more than likely just your family’s way of expressing their suffering and grief after the death of your father. They’d feel the same no matter who had passed on. Your family probably finds it painful to be together because it’s a reminder of the person you all miss. You may also be having a hard time finding new ways of relating to each other, now that your father is gone.

Don’t give up hope! Time should help restore your temporarily lost feelings of warmth and togetherness. But you may be able to speed the process by keeping the channels of communication open. Talk with your family about memories of your father. Focus on how each of you is feeling and trying to adjust. If you maintain an easy, supportive manner, this will help everyone fine peaceful outlets for their grief, and help restore the family closeness to what it was before.

To help your aging parents maintain their quality of life, think in terms of flowing water, which over time can create beautiful formations out of the toughest rocks.
Copyright 2011 by Robert Moskowitz

Robert Moskowitz is a successful author and editor with a knack for conveying complex and difficult topics in a friendly, down-to-earth style. His published books include “Parenting Your Aging Parents,” available at www.KeyPubs.com/PYAPBook.html, one of the first books to offer simple, clear, and comprehensive information to families concerned with caring for aging relatives. .

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